The day I started sommellerie at CAVE wine school, I realised I wasn’t going to be studying for just two academic years but that I was forming a new relationship, a commitment for life.
On the second day of school, I realised director María Barrutia was talking another language that wasn’t Spanish: it was enology. I spent the next three months learning brand-new vocabulary: uva wasn’t a grape in enological terms, grano was, it wasn’t piel but hollejo, and so the lessons continued.
It also hit me that going back to study age 36 and re-learning British punctuality wasn’t going to be a breeze. But it turned out I’d taken one of the best decisions in my life.
The first term was all about playing catch-up. I felt weeks behind everyone else, that I was a duffer and not very good at all this wine stuff. Did you see Somm? Yeah, that wasn’t me.
Until a fellow student found quite a lot of tropical nose, pineapple I believe, in a Malbec. The rest of the class shook our collective head and said ‘plum! cherry!’ and that tiny eureka moment made me realise that perhaps I was onto something, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I lost count of how much wine I sampled after a few months when my numbered list fell by the wayside. I started using an app, but ditched it. Tasting notes were frantically scribbled onto napkins and in interview notebooks. (Reminder to my past self to use bloody index cards!) School took us to Mendoza for a week, an exhausting but fascinating closeup of Argentina’s wine industry.
And somehow, between travel and deadlines and life, my nose and palate took on hearts and lungs of their own, separate entities capable of functioning on their own. I’ve licked limestone, sniffed slate, and even inhaled Malbec back when I wasn’t the professional I am today.
This week I (finally) received my diploma, and my little heart bursts with pride to say I’m a sommelier.
Essentially this is a quick shoutout to say thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my second career; to my friends who try their damndest to please and surprise me with unusual wares; to the classmates who started school but dropped by the wayside, I’m the proof that you can do it!; to my classmates who did leap over so many hurdles to make shit happen and complete the course, we rock!; to the people who have opened their cellar doors to me and let me snuffle about; to anyone I’ve ever interviewed from whom I’ve learnt a tiny snippet more of info; to Pablo Rivero for being a believer and telling me to put together a blog in English about Argentina’s wine, which, while its archives date back a few years, I only started it in August; to Christina Sunae and Franco Ferrantelli for letting me undertake work experience at their restaurant; Gabi Dvoskin for being a believer, friend and king of contacts; and Allan Kelin, because without his unconditional support and understanding, so much of the past three years wouldn’t have been possible, and for that I am eternally grateful.